Saturday, August 03, 2019

To awaken my sleeping soul

Often people even say: "There's a plot for one of your novels," as if I went around in search of plots for novels and not in search of myself. If I write it's in order to remember, to awaken my sleeping soul, to stir up my mind and discover its secret pathways. Most of my stories are fragments of my soul's memory, not inventions.
— from Empty Words, by Mario Levrero.

It's a strange little novel. The narrator embarks on a journey of graphological self-therapy. If he improves his handwriting, it will improve his character. Although, it's not entirely clear what needs bettering.

And it's important for him in his therapy to separate the form the content. He must focus on the form, on shaping the letters. But he can't do it. So his daily exercises tell us a great deal about his living circumstances, the upcoming house move, and especially the dog. He produces the occasional profound insight, but all to the detriment of his handwriting.
Today I failed in my grand plans to start living more healthily, with less time spent on things like reading and using the computer, precisely because of an irresistible urge to use the computer. There's always some idea I want to try out, or some mystery that needs solving once and for all. I think the computer is taking the place of my Unconscious as a field of investigation. I went as far as I could with my investigations into my Unconscious, and the by-product of those investigations is the literature I've written (although literature was also a tool I used in those investigations, in some cases at least).

To be honest, the world of the computer is very similar to the world of the Unconscious, with lots of hidden elements and a language to decipher. I probably feel like there's nowhere left to go when it comes to investigating my Unconscious; the computer also involves much less risk, or risk of a different kind.

The strangest thing about all this is the value I ascribe to investigating something that is, quite definitely, of no use to me whatsoever. And yet I clearly do see it as immensely valuable, as if there were vitally important clues hidden in the workings of the machine.
About halfway through, it becomes clear to me that the narrator is crazy. I'm not sure if he's been crazy all along or whether the graphological therapy is drawing it out of him.

The entries are dated, and there are gaps of days and later even months. What happened in the intervening time? It becomes clear that several significant life events have transpired off-screen. Our narrator prefers to leave them swirling in his unconscious than to commit a record of them to paper.

The exercises are less regular over time. But when he finally attacks them in earnest, the content is crushed out of the words he produces, to become merely vocabulary lists — no, that gives the words too much weight; they are strings of letters. We see him cross out and rewrite misshapen words. We see him unravel.

Empty Words started out as a pretentious and directionless, though mildly entertaining, exercise (and I mean the "novel," not the graphological therapy), but it turned out to be much darker, more provocative.
And so I decide to go on hoping, and every new hope exhausts me a little more, sucks a little more life from me, and dismantles my remaining self-esteem, until the only thing I have left is the pointless lucidity with which I passively observe the way I'm going under once and for all.

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